Malaysian states adopt ‘e-wallets’ to encourage online payments

By on 20/02/2020
Sabah’s capital Kota Kinabalu: of the state’s government departments and agencies, 27 are participating in Sabah Pay, as well as 28 business and commercial entities. (Photo by CEphoto/Uwe Aranas via Wikimedia Commons).

A second state in Malaysia has launched its own digital wallet – or ‘e-wallet’ – as it looks to drive greater take-up of online payments.

The state of Sabah, home to more than 3.5 million people, has launched ‘Sabah Pay’. In doing so, the state is following the trail blazed by its neighbour state on the island of Borneo, Sarawak, which launched its own ‘S-Pay’ in November 2017, as well as national e-money initiatives.

Of the state’s government departments and agencies, 27 are participating in Sabah Pay, as well as 28 business and commercial entities, the Borneo Post reported. Subscribers to the e-wallet can make payments to state government bodies such as the Land and Surveys Department, Water Department, Environment Protection Department and even veterinary services. By the end of this year, it is expected that 80-90% of Sabah government departments and agencies will be on the Sabah Pay platform.

In Sarawak’s wake

S-Pay, which was launched as ‘Sarawak Pay’, has become internationally accepted after a partnership with China-owned UnionPay, the world’s biggest card issuer, with users able to pay using the app wherever UnionPay is accepted.  

The Sabah state government – following in the wake of Sarawak – handed Sabah Credit Corporation (SCC) a mandate to set up Sabah Pay last autumn, according to the Borneo Post.  

At the time, the Borneo Post reported Sabah’s chief minister, Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal, as saying that the e-wallet system would facilitate the state government’s business transactions; make it easier for both tourists and businesses to make payments; and help to curb the production of fake bank notes. It is yet to be confirmed as to whether there are also international aspirations for Sabah Pay.

Shafie said Sabah Pay will be made available on Google Play and Apple Store soon but that rural areas need fast internet connectivity for the full benefits to be felt, the Borneo Post reported. It also noted that, as a promotion, Sabah Pay was offering the first 10,000 users who make a transaction of greater than 30 Malaysian ringgits (US$7) a financial credit of 10 Malaysian ringgits (US$2.40).

According to a report in Malaysian media The Star, the e-wallet will include an ‘announcement module’ to share news by government departments and agencies, and an ‘event module’ for information on events. People will also be able to report ‘incidents’ to state agencies, and access links to government agencies’ web portals.

Sabah cash carrot mirrors national initiative

Malaysia has – at a national level – launched various government initiatives as it seeks to make payments digital. According to a report last month, just 5% of daily payments are currently cashless in the country.  

The government is running an initiative known as the ‘E-Tunai Rakyat’ programme to encourage e-wallet registrations. This offers a one-off 30 Malaysian ringgit (US$7) e-credit to every adult who earns less than 100,000 Malaysian ringgits (US$24,000) per year, as an incentive to register with a participating e-wallet service provider. The campaign kicked off in mid-January and ends in mid-March.

Malaysia also has a national QR code standard for cashless payments, known as DuitNow QR. The city of Cyberjaya – which has aspirations to become the country’s ‘Silicon Valley’ – last month become the first city to adopt the code, according to news reports.

About Ian Hall

Ian is a former editor of Public Affairs News (2007-2011), who has most recently worked as UK director for the pan-European media network Euractiv (2011-2018). He is also a former news editor of PR Week (2000-2007). He was shortlisted for ‘Editor of the Year’ at the British Society of Magazine Editors (BSME) Awards in 2010. He began his career in Bulgaria at English-language weekly the Sofia Echo. Ian has an MA in Urban and Regional Change in Europe and a BA in Economics, both from Durham University.

One Comment

  1. Alan Montgomery

    20/02/2020 at

    Are they looking to extend the e-wallet to include the Driver Licence or other licensing or identity credentials

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